Embedded Librarianship as a Student Engagement Tool

Posted by InfoLit Learning Community on 6/21/19 4:00 PM

InfoLit Learning Community, embedded librarians

NVU logoLast week’s Connecticut Information Literacy Conference, held at Hartford University on June 14, was all about grit—both using resilience as an instructor and taking advantage of student tenacity to enhance learning.

The program “Getting Down to Business: Incorporating the Framework into a Sustainable & Collaborative Embedded Librarian Project” featured presenters from Northern Vermont University (NVU): Sam Boss, Director of NVU Libraries, and Kristi J. Castelberry, Assistant Professor of Literature, NVU- Lyndon. The two described an intense and effective collaboration in which they work with a critical thinking class to teach them IL in accordance with the ACRL framework. Students work toward a debate, with the class starting with a theme—monsters—but the exact focus and materials used being up to the students. For example, students have used Frankenstein as one focus; other times, students analyzed movies such as Indiana Jones (with the Nazis in the movie as monsters) and Jurassic Park.

Embedded librarianship is common at NVU, said the presenters, but not at this level of intensity (Boss is present in multiple classes per semester). This level of collaboration and librarian attendance isn’t possible in every class, they said, but the work still benefits other classes as Boss uses this class as a lab of sorts, bringing the best of it to other IL classes. Casteberry, too, said that she uses elements of this class elsewhere, and other professors at the school have used parts of it in their classes, so the work has a wide impact. This was one of the goals of this collaboration—Boss and Castleberry aimed to have library activity as connected to the course as possible but at the same time to be movable to other classes. One result of the librarian embedding, said Castleberry, is that all of the classes feel like critical thinking, rather than critical thinking sometimes and library resources and practices other times.

Scholarship as Conversation

Over the semester, students are introduced to the various ACRL frames as they touch upon their location, analysis, and synthesizing of debate material. Weeks one and two cover “Scholarship as conversation,” for example, with the explanation of that integrated into an activity rather than made explicit. Boss shows students how a create a citation, so that they understand the mechanics and are introduced to the idea that you use others’ work. The bigger picture is that they will understand that they are becoming members of a community, said Boss, and that they’re entering an ongoing conversation, not a finished one. Also related to citations, when students verbally discuss the movie or other work that’s the focus of their debate, they are encouraged to cite or quote each other.

For background research, students use Credo’s reference platform and material such as Opposing Viewpoints and CQ Researcher, and are given topics that are far too broad so that they get practice narrowing a topic. They can then use more sources, and at first, said Castleberry, any source at all counts, because of the plan to let students discover that topic-discovery work and the research are “mutually constitutive.”

Students then begin to look at what makes a source credible; as part of this, they are asked to find material related to their topic from different disciplines—for example, if they are debating zombies, they can look at English literature and medical sources. They decide as a group what constitutes authoritative information, looking at authors’ social media presence as part of that.

In closing, Boss and Castleberry recommended “not talking about the framework when you’re talking about the framework” as very effective.

Read more about the Connecticut Information Literacy conference here.

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